If you haven’t been receiving your electricity bill for the past couple of months, you’re not alone. In view of the coivd-19 pandemic, several electricity distribution companies (DISCOMs) have suspended metering and hand-held billing activities. But not getting your bill for several months might mean having to pay a lump sum later, especially as your electricity consumption is probably going up as the summer months bear down on us.
To avoid shelling out a fortune in electricity bills in one go, you can read your meters on your own and report it to your DISCOM to have an accurate bill generated. Here’s how meter reading works and how you can self-generate your bill.
How it works
Your meter reading is taken every month. The meter tells cumulative units since the time the meter was installed. So the actual consumption unit comes from the difference in the previous and the current readings. Some places have SMART meters or electronic meters that can transfer the data directly to the electricity distribution company. But in most places in India, the reading is still done manually, which means a DISCOM representative comes and takes the reading from the meter.
“The electricity tariff is slabbed, which means that the initial units that you consume are cheaper and the latter units that you consume are expensive. So the first 50 units that you consume may be cheap, but the next 100 units will be more expensive, next 100 more than that and next 100 much more than that. These slabs vary from state to state,” said Abhishek Jain, founder of bijlibachao.com, a website that helps customers understand and reduce their electricity bills.
Why no bills
While there isn’t much human interaction involved for meter reading, Jain thinks DISCOMs might be short on personnel because of the pandemic and lockdowns. “DISCOMs will have to take special permits for their person to move around. Also, maybe societies are not letting external people come in. Usually, in bigger societies there is a single meter room and the person coming in to take readings just has to interact with the security guards. But challenges will vary from society to society, and that is why DISCOMs have deferred meter reading,” he said.
In the absence of bills, some DISCOMs generate bills through “average billing” based on the consumption of the customer in the previous year. But this might not work out to your advantage. Usually people have higher consumption in summer months and lower in winter. The average will be somewhere in between. When the actual meter reading is taken, it will be higher than whatever was billed because your summer consumption is high, and you will be charged more for it. “For instance, suppose your last year’s average monthly consumption was 300 units, but your current month’s unit consumption is 450 units, you may be charged for 150 units less. The billing slabs are such that the tariff increases after the consumption of 400 units. So if the meter reading was taken, only 50 units from the current month would have been charged at a higher rate. Now assume next month you consume 400 units. Ideally, all units should be charged at a lower rate, but because 150 units were not accounted for, these will be added to your bill and your bill will be of 550 units, 150 of which will be charged at a higher rate, which would be a bad deal for you,” said Jain.
There is also the possibility of not receiving your bills at all for an extended period, and then being saddled with all of them at once. This could put a dent in your budget in these already trying times, if it’s not accounted for.
Go the self-reading way
One way to ensure that you get an accurate bill is to take matters into your own hands. Self meter reading, self-generation or trust billing is the process of consumers reading their meters on their own and informing the DISCOM of the same so that an accurate bill can be generated. Earlier this month, DISCOMs in Delhi announced rebates and rewards for consumers to promote self meter reading and bill payment. BSES announced a rebate of up to ₹240 for consumers who do self meter reading and raise their bills by 30 June, and pay the bill within a week of bill generation. They would also not have to pay any transaction charge for online bill payment for bills of up to ₹10,000.
DISCOMs in Mumbai have also asked consumers to submit their own meter readings. “If your DISCOM is giving you an option to submit your meter reading, then you should opt for that as it will get you the right bill,” said Jain. “Self meter reading is a simple process. In Mumbai, DISCOMs have given an online form on their website where people can submit their meter reading. All people have to do is know where their meter is installed, check the number showing up on the meter and send it across,” he added.
But keep in mind that not all DISCOMs offer this option, and there might be eligibility criteria in place.